Saturday, June 30, 2007
Top 100 Movies: 21-30
Friday, June 29, 2007
Heaven Help Us
What do you get when you cross hip religion, millions of dollars, and an NBC sitcom? Bad Theology, also going by the title Evan Almighty these days. This latest film by the crew that brought us Bruce Almighty tells the tale of side character Evan Baxter from the previous film as he, like Bruce, comes face to face with God.
Evan Baxter has recently been elected to Congress. The job is a big one and as he contemplates the grand desire he has to "change the world" (which just so happened to be his campaign slogan) he pauses to pray for God's help. But his and God's ideas of how Evan can affect change are not the same and God's command for Evan to build an ark brings on a "comedy of biblical proportions."
The reality, however, is that despite its clever tagline Evan Almighty really isn't that funny. Both Lauren Graham and Steve Carell were rather plastic in the film. I found nobody, save for the monkeys on the ark, very convincing. The attempts at humour were not just cheap, they were inaffective, and the millions invested in this film did little more than make a big screen zoo out of a potentially interesting movie.
But beyond the basic aesthetics this is a film that is marked by terrible theology. That is not to say that a film that doesn't acknowledge salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone is worthless. But rather it is to say that if Hollywood insists on making movies based on the Christian faith they should at least get the basics right.
Sure the god of Evan Almighty (played by the usually brilliant Morgan Freeman) is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. But even this god misunderstand the reality of the true story of Noah, which He supposedly inspired. The whole story of Noah's Ark is recast, here, in terms quite absurd. Noah, if you read the real story, is about God's judgment on sinful mankind, and His salvation of a righteous man named Noah. In this movie the Biblical account is explicitly restated to be about "love." How ridiculous!
What's worse is that the movie has been marketed to Christians. Finally Hollywood has realized that Christians can bring them in some big bucks if they'd make movies that appeal to them. But is this the best they can do? If the period of "Christian" films post Narnia and Lord of the Rings includes this type of bad art and bad theology then all I can say is "Heaven help us!" This is not a Christian film, friends, and worse...it's not a very good film at all.
So what do you get when you cross hip religion, millions of dollars, and an NBC sitcom? Jokes that aren't funny, acting that isn't good, an annoying Wanda Sykes, and a "comedy" of Unbiblical proportions.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Consumerism Reigns King
The new iPhone comes out in a matter of days. The product is another hot item off the apple product list. It's sleek and cool looking, with some fancy new features. People are already lining up to buy this new product, and are prepared to fork over the fortune that it will cost them. But what should Christians think about the iPhone?
I suppose at one level the fact is that the iPhone is entirely neutral as a product. It has no moral issues, nor does it necessarily generate sin in the heart of its buyers. But, as will all consumerism, it has the potential to become a god. Lining up to buy the iPhone may just suggest the worship of materialism that is rapent in our country. It may suggest the reign of Mamon on our "Christian" continent.
Beyond the foundational issue of idolatry is the issue of responsibility. How many people will fork over the hundrends of dollars required to buy this phone, and the thousands it will cost to keep it running every year, and will fail to live up to their other duties? Such scenes remind me of the Apostle Paul's words, "all things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful."
This is not intended to be some legalist rant, shaking my finger at those who buy an iPhone. Perhaps I am just being envious and need to evaluate my own heart first. But we must all confess the reality that in America Consumerism, not Christ, is King, and this goes for the Christian too. So consider carefully before you buy an iPhone. It's not a sin to own, or even to wait in line to buy an iPhone, but check your heart and examine your motives. Sin can be subtle friends, and the iPhone might be just cool enough to distract us from proper judgments.
So buy your iPhone wisely, with discernment, and as a god-fearing Christian. And if you still decide to buy one...could you let me check it out?
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Top 100 Movies: 11-20
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Top 100 Favorite Movies: 1-10
At work a few weeks ago one of my co-workers mentioned that among his favorite movies was Armagedon. You remember this film: it was the cheesy, overly dramatic, and forgetable (if start stacked)adventure in space. The only thing worse than this film was the annoying Aerosmith song that came out attached to it. In response to my co-worker I offered to recommend him a few good movies. He insisted, however, that Armagedon be considered in at least my top 100, but I refused. So as I have had time to think about it, I have come up with my top 100 favorite films. Here's a portion, after number five they are in no particular order:
1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
2. Young Frankenstein
3. Rear Window
4. Duck Soup
6. To Catch a Thief
8. The Patriot
9. To Kill a Mockingbird
10. The Three Amigos
Saturday, June 23, 2007
The Rumours are True
The Rumours are True friends, the Dunhams are moving...again. This November we will be returning to our beloved Southern Ohio to serve in Minford, OH at a local church and to start long term gospel ministry in Portsmouth, OH.
This has been a long term discussion for over a year now with friends, the elders of our church, and the pastors and members at Grace Baptist Church in Minford. God has only increased our desires over that time. As I have contemplated the great need both for social ministry and racial ministry (of course not seperate from gospel ministry) in the area of Portsmouth I have thought, "Who will serve, who will go?" And the answer the Lord has pressed upon me and my family is, "We will go, O Lord."
Our desire is to see city wide reformation, to help gospel preaching churches in Southern Ohio, and to minister the whole Gospel, to Whole People, in this area. We are not going to Ohio to be closer to some of our family that lives there...though what a delight that will be...we are not going to Ohio because we love that state...though I do...we are not even going to Ohio because I am done with Seminary and don't know what to do...I am not done with Seminary...but we are going because the people of Portsmouth need to know of the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ.
If you have an affection for the gospel in Southern Ohio, particularly Portsmouth contact me and let's see how we can work together. If you are interetsed in helping Southern Ohio churches, then contact The Southern Ohio Theological Society, of which I am a member. O, and by the way...if you want to help the people of Southern Ohio, you can start by helping me unload furniture this November!
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Unaware in the USA
Do you know what the Pro-Life Movement is like? Maybe you only think you do. A new documentary "Unborn in the USA" reveals the inside story of the Pro-Life Movement. I had originally read the promotional information and believed that it was an anti-life film. I could not have been more wrong.
The documentary attempts to merely present the facts of the pro-life movement, but tends even to side more towards the pro-life movement. This is an interesting film and presents both the side of the local pastors striving to help people understand the evil of abortion and the radical "Army of God" crusaders who shoot abortionists. The film is both sad and educational. The directors of the film do a good job of revealing the humanity of the movement, the people, and the emotions of all invovled. If it is not the best quality film it is certainly worth seeing. I encourage everyone, skeptic and advocate, to at least check out this film.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
The Glamorous Life of a Thief
The old saying that revenge is a dish best served cold simply is not true. For George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and the rest of the Ocean's 13 cast serve it up cool and smokey. If there is one thing that the original Rat Pack and the new one teach us it is that being a theif is glamorous and sexy.
In this third installment in the Ocean remakes the old world meets the modern with style. Danny Ocean (Clooney) and his companions return to Las Vegas to seek revenge on behalf of their dear friend Reuben (Elliot Goul), who has been duped and left nearly dead by the villanous hotel owner Willie Bank (Al Pacino). The gang runs into one problem after another in an attempt to steal back the money Reuben put into the hotel before Bank gave him the boot. But with each problem comes a twist, a laugh, and some of that classic Sinatra style.
The central theme of the film seems to be that "old" is still cool in today's hyped up world. Throughout the movie the characters reference the way things use to be: Casinos use to be smaller, though "they felt big" says Rusty (Brad Pitt), life use to be simpler, and Sinatra's hand meant something. Those who shook it and were still alive had an instant connection, a trust, an unspoken appreciation for one another. But all that is gone. Bank says "Screw Sinatra's hand," and builds his gigantic hotel, puts in his amazing artficial intellegince security system, and runs Reuben into the ground. According to theif consultant Roman Nagel (Eddi Izzard) Ocean and his gang are all "analog players in a digital world."
But with swagger and cool the gang shows just how smooth, stylish, and present "old" is. Even Reuben, after coming "back to life," states very plainly from behind his ruffled 50s style shirt "the moment you start becoming embarrased of who you are, you lose yourself." It's a movie that reminds us that old is still cool.
Another worldview conveyed by the film is the power and importance of loyalty and friendship. Although it is completely overshadowed by the glamour of the heist, it is only Reuben's friends, particularly letters from Basher (Don Cheadle), that keep him alive and give him the needed motivation to come back. Friendship and loyalty are powerful tools.
Ultimatley the film does have flaws, such as its glorified view of thievery. Though I don't suspect any viewers will be tempted to pull off a jewel heist after seeing it there is something to be said for a movie that forces you to root for crooks. But that is another topic. In short, since I've belabored this reveiw already, the film is fun and certainly "cool," but I can't help but feel bad, as my friend Rich puts it, for rooting for the crooks.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Prayer for the Grahams
Be in prayer today, friends, for Ruth and Billy Graham as Mrs. Graham is in a coma and close to death. For more information see the article under Top Articles to the left, or go to this link:
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Third Times the Harm
The sad truth about sequals is that they are rarely good. It's like day old burritos. They were good the first time but by the second day they're soggy and rather disgusting. Shrek the Third, simply put, is a day old burrito.
The original Shrek left its mark on animated films by revamping the fairy tale story. In it the creators are making fun of the Disney genre and adding some excitement and flair to the world of fairy tale movies. Shrek was fun and clever. Shrek II was funny, though it certainly didn't match up to the original. But by the time that a third Shrek movie comes out the cleverness of the original is long gone.
Perhaps it is merely that we are too demanding. We want fresh burritos everytime we open up the leftover carton. Originality simply can't be duplicated everytime there is a sequal. But, on the other hand, that is the whole point, isn't it? Why does every major motion picture company feel the need to repeat stories and characters? Yes it brings in the money, and I suppose that's really all they have to be concerned about. But for the sake of intelligent enjoyable art, let a good film stand on its own two legs!
Shrek the Third has lost the glitter of the original. Its humor has fallen short, its character development is weak, and its storyline is completely unreleatable to its target audience. So, I think I'll throw out the day old burritos and try something with a little more spice next time.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Sermons for Sale
Here's a quick advertisement:
Are you a pastor? Are you tired of spending hours in the Word of God? Studying to make sure that what you present your people is Biblical and Christ-Centere? Do you find that preaching is just too much of a hassle? Well there is good news for you friend. One pastor has declared his sermons fit for everyone to preach and he is even offering them at a fair price to you.
In case you miss it, I am being sardonic here. I find this sort of promotion of laziness in the pastorate an afront to gospel ministry. Pastor, your job is to study the Word of God in depth for your people. It is not your job to build a mega-church, design and orchestrate new church programs, or expand your church campuses. Your people coming in on Sunday morning with heart-ache and bitterness, struggling with sin and guilt don't need the words of another man who has never met them and doesn't know how the present text needs to be applied to your and their contexts. They need their pastor to love them enough to dig into the text and help them understand how the gospel matters when they've been up all night with a screaming baby, or how the cross of Christ relates to their failing marriage.
Pastors, don't be lazy! Do your duty as a preacher of the Word of God, and spend time in the text yourself for the sake of your people and the glory of our Savior!Don't buy a sermon!
Monday, June 11, 2007
Willing to Apologize
After posting on the upcoming documentary "Unborn in the USA" I recieved a comment from Kelly Hargraves. I do not know Mrs./Miss (?) Hargraves, but she has some affiliation with this film, and as such has very politely suggested that I may not understand what the movie is about. I confess I certainly thought I did. The language of the promotional information suggests a film that is anti-pro-life. Referring to the "deep secrets and deep pockets" of the the pro-life movement, and the language of "constitutional right to privacy" would suprise me in a favorable look at the pro-life movement. I am, however, more than willing to watch the film and give it a fair review. This is a case where I would be more than thrilled to be wrong, and it is quite possible that I have allowed my pre-concieved notions get the best of my reading and I have misinterpreted the information about this film.
So Dear Kelly Hargraves, please send me a copy of your film!
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Hitchen Up for the Battle Ahead
"Religion comes from the stupid infancy of our species..." so says Christopher Hitchens. If you haven't heard of this British author you are sure to hear his name soon. His most recent book has garnered him numerous appearances on TV talk shows. The title of the book? "God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything."
What makes Hitchens worthy of discussion here is not that he is another atheist out to see Christianity run into the ground. Rather, it is the wit, and skill with which he argues his case. It is the publicity he is gaining and will gain as he spews pop-philosophy across the airwaves. His arguments aren't anything new, in fact most of them are old. He won't destroy the faith, that is not what makes him worth talking about. As Al Mohler has stated, "He excepts most of the most extreme criticisms of faith in God...the big issue here is not that...Christopher Hitchens [is] going to bring down the household of faith..." Rest assured friends that God's Word will stand as it always has.
So that being said, why have I wasted your time with information about Christopher Hitchens? Again Al Mohler provides a good answer:
The big issue here is not that Daniel Dennet,Richard Dawkins Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens are going to bring down the household of faith, that's not the problem. The issue is that it tells a great deal about where our culture is now going in terms of considering atheism in its most strident form to be a very legitimate alternative to Christianity. And celebrating many of the arguments made by these most caustic of atheists as indicating what they see as the basic underlying reality.
These New Atheists, as they are being called, are making strides towards a popular atheism. In the media atheism is popular enough. Among the high-brow liberals it is common enough. But when the average church member sitting across the isle from you comes into contact with the popular presentations of Christopher Hitchens, who is very intellegent and eloquent, what will you say? Friends there is a solid Christian response to what Christopher Hitchens, and his cohorts are saying. Their responses are not as tight, clear, or honest, as they would like you to believe. Read up, study, and prepare to stand your ground as this new wave of popular atheism comes to your town, your church, and your doorstep.
To get started here are few resources:
Hear the rest of Al Mohler's discussion on this over at http://www.albertmohler.com/radio_show.php?cdate=2007-05-22
Read the series of articles that Mark Roberts has written in response to Hitchen's "reasearch" over at http://www.markdroberts.com/htmfiles/resources/godisnotgreat.htm#jun707
Finally listen to the guys at Apologetics.Com reveal just how old this "new" atheism is at http://www.apologetics.com/audio/06_02_07.mp3
Pro-Life advocates are the opressors of women...or at least that's what Stephen Fell and Will Thompson want you to believe. Their upcoming documentary "Unborn in the USA" opens next weekend and it details the "deep secrets and deep pockets of the pro-life movement." In their opinion pro-life is a movement that robs a woman of her "right to privacy". The documentary is sure to create a stir.
What's interesting about this news is not that an anti-life movement has been created. But rather one must observe the carefully chosen language of its filmakers and, in the coming weeks, of those who will review it. This is not a film that talks about or discusses the methods of abortion. They won't show any images of babies being torn apart limb by limb. Rather they will discuss how defenders of the unborn are invading a women's personal right to choose what she does with her body. They will portray pro-lifers as oppressive, manipulative, invaders. Undoubtedly they will discuss conservative Christians and their right-wing beliefs, all the while painting us as religious crusaders against personal liberty. Watch the language, it makes a difference.
In these types of situations its not only what you talk about, but how you talk about it. For a film out to get the truth, as they intend for it be, they are using language that is dishonest. Listen to the language, friends, it makes a difference.
Saturday, June 09, 2007
Summer Reading Recommendations
The Summer is usually that time of the year when the average American catches up on his or her reading. But what will you read this summer? There are so many books out there, and so little time, you dont' want to waste your summer reading terrible books. So NPR has compiled a list of book recommendations from booksellers. R. Albert Mohler Jr. too has compiled his own summer suggestions. Lest I be left out, I too have my own recommended reading. If you can read all three lists you'll truly have gotten your fill of books this summer. So here they are:
1) The Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick --> Philbrick weaves history into a wonderful and gripping narrative that captivates the reader and draws him into the events of the colonial settling of America. He avoids both the pitfalls of European supremacy, and European wickedness in relating the account of the Native American and Colonial interactions. It's a well written book.
2)The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe --> For those who haven't read it, this book will be an fun and quick read. With the Narnia movies being made you will get a better picture of their story and beauty by reading the books along with them. For those who have already read it, I recommend reading it again. What art C.S. Lewis had! You won't be disappointed.
3) Life in the Body by Curtis C. Thoms --> This is a very helpful and thoughtful book on church life and what it means to be a member of a church. Thomas points to the ministry of all members in this book and it is a much needed reminder to church members everywhere that they are called to serve one another and grow together before the Lord.
4) On Sin and Temptation by John Owen, ed. by Justin Taylor and Kelly Kapic --> This modern reprint of the Puritan classics on sin and temptation is a wonderful addition to any Christian's reading list. The indwelling power of sin in the Christian is a far too often overlooked or psychologized in the modern church. Owen gives not only a strong gospel grounded theology for fighting sin, but practical advice for fighting sin, something we all need to be doing this summer. Pick it up friends, you will appreciate it in the long run.
5) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling --> The final book in the Hary Potter series. Find out what happens to the young wizard in this wonderfully written fantasy novel series.
Friday, June 08, 2007
Ohio Sports Fans
It's a good year for Ohio Sports fans. Even with the Cavs defeat last night Ohioans have much to rejoice in. They've finished second, with outstanding records, in both College Basketball and Football, and now their Cleveland Cavaliers are in the NBA Finals.
As preparation for Game 2 gets under way I anticipate Lebron to make some big adjustments. His low assist numbers in Game 1 will be the biggest difference. There's nothing he can do about the fact that San Antonio is going to be doubling and tripling him. But He has got to find the open man. All around he needs to improve his third quater stats. But the questions still remains: Do the Cavs have a shot?
The answer: I can give no definitive response. But let's be honest. The Spurs played average in game 1. With good defense and sharp moving by Tony Parker, they still didn't play at their level of NBA basketball. And even with that level of playing the Cavs weren't able to keep up. But to be honest, the Cavs played terrible. Lebron will improve, but will his teamates? Will they make the open shots when Lebron gets them the ball out of the double team? We wait in anticipation.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
My Mighty Men
Yesterday I commented on a passage from 1 Chronicles which spoke of the "mighty men" that surrounded David. These were men whom David needed, men on whom he relied. God has made man to desire and to need fellowship and help. We all need "mighty men" who will give us "strong support," and help us fight the good fight of faith. So, inspired by my friend Rich Clark, I am listing here my mighty men.
(1) Steve Burchett, my mentor and dear friend. Steve's guidance and education have laid a solid foundation upon which everything else has been built. He taught me not only how to know God better, but simply how to think.
(2) Jeff McKinney, lay leader from a previous church. Jeff's example of humility and love, and his friendship have been a strong influence in my life.
(3) John F. MacArthur Jr. I have never personally met Dr. MacArthur, but early on in my theological education I surrounded myself with his works and learned so greatly from them that they remain, to this day, treasured posessions.
(4) The Elders of Third Avenue Baptist Church. Each of these men have been an example of not only good preaching, but solid pastoral leadership. Their hearts and their minds are a blessing to me.
(5) Andy McDonie. My dear friend from high school, whose friendship to me now is even sweeter than it was then. His example of love and joyfulness in the midst of trials is a testimony to the goodness of God. I am indebted to God for him, because it was through his friendship that I came to know the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal savior.
The list could go on to include all the members of my current church, a number of professors and theologians, and other godly friends, but that would exceed my time. So suffice it to say that God has granted to me an ARMY of mighty men with whom I can labor for His kingdom and through whom I am being edified. Who are your "mighty men?"
Sunday, June 03, 2007
David's Mighty Men
1 Chronicles 11 described the mighty men that gathered around King David. So verse ten begins, “Now these are the chiefs of David’s mighty men, who gave him strong support in his kingdom, together with all Israel, to make him king, according to the word of the Lord concerning Israel.” This is a fascinating introduction on several levels:
(1) It marks out that being a “mighty man” was worthy of documentation. There was something honorable in the old world mind about being a “mighty man.” In a culture continually encouraging men to be “sensitive” and more feminine, it is a breath of fresh air to read this testosterone filled passage. Mightiness was a quality to be applauded and appreciated, and even documented to pass on that individual’s legacy.
(2) It marks out what a mighty man is. Mighty men “gave…strong support.” These men had a goal to help King David and they gave him all the support they could muster. There is no half-hearted effort involved, but mighty men give mighty support. Furthermore, to be a “mighty man” in any biblical sense of the word is to be concerned about the “Word of the Lord.” These men were not out to make David king merely because he wanted to be king. They saw in it the fulfillment of the Word of the Lord. They gave David strong support because they saw in it that they were giving God strong support. They were giving all their effort to see accomplished what they knew the almighty sovereign was going to do. Mighty men are men of God!
(3) It marks out why mighty men are needed. David’s kingship was a promise from God and was, therefore, guaranteed. There was nothing in the universe that could stay God’s plan from coming to fruition. He is the sovereign ruler and controls all and works out, with perfect precision, His eternal plan. Yet David knew too that God worked through means. That is to say that God’s will to make David king would not happen by David’s sitting on his hands. He would have to gather support and claim the throne, and to that end he would need “strong support” from “mighty men.” Mighty men serve God by serving others, and they are needed because God uses the community of the faithful to bring about His eternally purposed plans. Mighty men are needed to help one another accomplish the tasks God has ordained they do.
There is, in verse 11, the fascinating description of one particular “mighty man” of David’s entourage. Jashobeam was a MIGHTY man, as mighty as they come. The author of 1 Chronicles gives the following remarkable account of Jahsobeam’s might: This is an account of David’s mighty men: Jashobeam, a Hachmonite, was chief of the three. He wielded his spear against 300 whom he killed at one time.
Whoa! The man was a warrior! He killed 300 men with a spear, at one time! There is something right, honorable, and manly about this description. I do not mean to sound as though I am encouraging us to go out and kill 300 men with a spear, nor do I suppose any man today could do it. And, of course, murder is wrong, God himself says so. But there is something right about a man being mighty. There is something right about a man being a defender of his home, his country, his church (in whatever form that takes). We need men today who will rise up and be warriors! And raise up young warriors in their homes! NOT murderers, or violent crusaders for Christ, or something ridiculous like that. But men who understand what it means to be “manly!” Men who aren’t afraid to be tough, and hard, and who boldly resist the feminization of our culture and our manhood! We need men who will work hard for their families, lead them spiritually to see the fulfillment of the “Word of the Lord,” and yes even men who are strong enough to grapple with evil (physical and spiritual). What we need today is a recovery of “Mighty MEN!”
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Theology in Southern Ohio
The website of The Southern Ohio Theological Society is up and running. I am very excited about this ministry and its goals. Evangelical Christians in Southern Ohio can be part of a ministry aimed at recovering the practical use and apprecation for theology.
Membership is open to all Evangelicals in Southern Ohio and is completely free. For mor info check out their website at www.southernohiotheologicalsociety.com